Susan stands by the window of Oakwood Nursing Home, staring at the greenery outside. Five years have passed since her mother Angela died, but she can’t bring herself to leave the nursing home where Angela spent her last days.
All her life, Susan had dreamed of a job where she could help people. That’s how Angela had raised her: to be kind and helpful. So when she had the opportunity to work as a caregiver at the nursing home, she jumped at the chance.
“You don’t have to come with me, honey. You have your own life. Don’t give it up for me. I want you to be happy in life. Get married, find a husband, have children and start a family,” Angela advised her.
But Susan could not leave her mother alone. She gave up her dreams, her life and her ambitions to take care of her and, eventually, the elderly at the nursing home.
Unfortunately, five years ago Angela was diagnosed with progressive heart disease and did not have long to live. During her last days, she wanted to spend time with her friends in the nursing home and decided to move there.
Susan wanted to be with Angela during her last days, so she quit her job at the hospital and became a caregiver at the nursing home. Since then, she has never looked back. The residents of the home have become her family, her life.
That day, as she looked out the window at the nursing home’s mini garden, a smile came to Susan’s lips. She noticed Alex, her favorite patient, reading a book in his wheelchair. They were quite close and he often shared his worries with her.
Suddenly, he looked up and smiled at her. Susan returned his smile and gave him a little wave. Then she walked out into the garden and sat down next to him.
“How are you today, Alex? Is everything okay?” she asked her 79-year-old patient.
Alex smiled at her, “I’m doing great, honey. How are you?”
“I don’t know, Alex,” Susan admitted sadly. “I just feel very weak today. I miss my mom. I wish she was here with me….”
“If that’s the case,” Alex smiled, “how about telling me a little more about it? You’ll see, it will lighten your heart, and I’m all ears, honey. You’ve taken care of me since I got here. It’s the least I can do for you.”
Susan gave a small smile. “That’s very generous of you, Alex. Actually, my mom and I didn’t have anyone else. That’s probably why I miss her so much. After my father died, my mother raised me alone. Dad was an orphan, and Mom lost her parents when she was young, so I never had much of a family, just a few cousins I lost touch with.”
“When Mom got sick, I dropped everything to come here to take care of her. But after she left me, I saw several other elderly people who longed to be reunited with their families and children, and I couldn’t convince myself to leave. My mother wanted me to live a very different life, but I hope she doesn’t mind that I stayed here to help the other residents….”
Alex closed his book and took Susan’s hands in his.
“Your mother raised you very well, dear. You see, my own children never took care of me, but you treated me like family. I sometimes wish you were my daughter. Your mother was lucky, and I know she’s proud of you.”
“I guess I was luckier to have her as my mother, Alex,” Susan said, “But now that she’s gone, what’s the point? … I miss our relationship so much!” Her voice began to tremble.
As Susan talked about how much she missed Angela, Alex stared at her face with sadness. His life had been miserable, and his children had abandoned him at the nursing home. But there are still children like Susan in the world who appreciate having a family and parents around them.
As Susan was telling him all the worries of her heart, she was suddenly interrupted by another nurse and had to leave. Alex looked at her sadly as she walked away.
“She’s a very sweet girl. Her mother must have been a wonderful person,” he thought.
The next evening, when Susan came into his room to give him his daily medication, Alex unexpectedly asked him to take an envelope from his bag.
“You told me about your mother yesterday,” he said, “and it wouldn’t be fair for me not to tell you about my family. Would you please take the white envelope from my bag? I hope you have some time to listen to my worries too.” He smiled weakly.
“Sure, Alex,” Susan replied, smiling back. She reached into his bag, which was laying on a chair.
“I found it!” she exclaimed, pulling the envelope out of the bag. Just then, a picture slipped out of the envelope and fell to the floor.
Susan bent down to pick it up and froze in place as she turned it over and stared at it.
“Wait, that’s…mom? That’s my mom! Where did you get that picture, Alex?” she asked as she turned to him, and she saw Alex’s smile fade and his eyes widen.
“Your mother?!” he asked, disbelief spreading across his face. “You’re Angela’s daughter?”.
“Yes, yes! Oh, she looks so young and pretty here,” Susan continued with tears in her eyes, running her hands over the smooth photo. “How did you know my mother?”
Alex sighed. “Angela Simons. I’ll never forget her. I knew she would be a wonderful mother someday…” he told Susan, who was surprised to learn that Alex and his mother were lovers in high school. But after Alex’s family moved to another city, he lost touch with her.
“She took care of her life and I took care of mine. I never thought I would ever meet her daughter. I took this picture of her when she was 17,” Alex revealed.
Susan was aware that her mother had a boyfriend in high school, but she didn’t know it was Alex.
“That’s crazy,” she said. “What if you see mom here again? I’m curious how she would have reacted if she saw you again.”
“It’s a pity that I came here after she was gone. Even though Angela and I had feelings for each other, we were great friends at one point. She was always so lively and cheerful….”
Susan and Alex spent the rest of the evening talking about her love affair with Angela, and at one point Susan wished her mother had met Alex again because she had seen how lonely she was after her father left.
The next day, Susan was busy working when she received a call from an unknown number. She picked up anyway, and the person on the other end introduced himself as Alex’s attorney.
“You should come to my office, Ms. Simons,” he says. “You are the sole heir to Mr. Alex Dempsey’s estate, and while I apologize for disturbing you, I have something that needs to be delivered to you personally.”
Susan was stunned by the news, but she went to the lawyer’s office, where she discovered that Alex had left her his two-story country home, a check for $150,000, and a note. She opened the note to read it and her eyes were watering as she read his words:
“A person who can care for an old man more than his children deserves more in life than his biological children. Not that it can make up for the years of love and care you have given me, but I hope you will accept it with gratitude.
Susan rushed to the nursing home and hugged Alex, hot tears streaming down her cheeks. “You didn’t have to do that, Alex! That…that wasn’t necessary!”
“But this old man thinks a little differently, Susan,” Alex replied with a smile. “Those days when my children abandoned me here were a blessing because I had someone like you to take care of me. It has nothing to do with the love and care you give me, honey. Believe me, you deserve it…” he said, and Susan couldn’t say otherwise.
That day, Susan realized she wasn’t really alone in life. While she had lost her mother, she had found a new family in Alex, who took care of her as well as her mother, and she was very grateful.